Is Lupus Hereditary?


Here We Go Again

Now we are waiting to see a pediatric cardiologist next week to determine the extent of the issue, cause, and treatment is required. But the fact that he has that history in utero, and that I had undiagnosed lupus at that time, will be closely examined.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bradycardia occurs when the heart’s electrical signals slow down or are blocked, and lupus can do this to the unborn baby of a mother with lupus.

Bradycardia is one several factors that can affect any part of the heart’s conduction system, including the SA node and the AV node. The SA node is the pacemaker of the heart, while the AV node conducts the electrical impulse from the atria to the ventricle.

Maternal lupus can lead to congenital heart block (disruption of the signal impulse) due to the presence of maternal antibodies that crossed the placenta. Now, the real question is: Is this why my son’s heart stopped beating in utero? Could it have rebounded enough that doctors never caught an issue until now?

Heart to Heart

As we wait, I am in flashback mode. His doctor says there is no urgent need to rush or panic about this, but, desperate to be understood that I am not some overly worried helicopter mother, I explained that this is not a new worry.

“I spent three months laying in a hospital bed listening to that boy’s heart, praying and bargaining with my own life every time it slowed to a terrifying stop,” I said. “This is a hauntingly familiar feeling I am having, doctor. So, yes, it is urgent.”

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And I blame myself for having this horrible disease, and four children, before I was ever diagnosed. What have I passed on to them? What will their health be like?

My daughters both have exhibited symptoms (rashes, sun sensitivity, pain all over and Raynaud’s syndrome) and one has a positive ANA but is not officially diagnosed.

It took me decades to get a diagnosis and I fear for all of them, not only for getting the disease, but the lack of knowledge many medical professionals seem to have. You spend your time wondering, is it really OK or are the doctors actually missing what is really going on inside?

When I asked my son’s pediatrician about the possibility of lupus being the cause, I was grateful he at least admitted that his knowledge about lupus was limited. He believes there would have been no doubt as soon as my son was born, because the issue is so severe.

Yet, I have read that there are varying degrees of this kind of signal block, from mild to complete. When I said this, he admitted he really did not know for certain. I respect that. So many doctors never admit that they just don’t know all there is to know about lupus. And I pray that my son’s cardiologist is someone who knows what lupus is capable of, but will also probe to learn more if that is what is required.

If You’re a Lupus Mom…

If you are a lupus mom, you probably share in my feelings of desperation and worry. Here is what I have to share with you:

  • Get any symptom of lupus you discover in your children checked by their doctor. If your gut says the doctor does not appear educated about lupus, get a second opinion from one who is.
  • Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child’s best and most thorough care. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ask for the blood tests that check ANA levels and for any clotting issues.
  • Educate yourself on all the symptoms of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. If you have one autoimmune disease, the odds increase to get another. This means that genetically your child is more prone to get any of the autoimmune diseases — they are open to the full autoimmune menu.
  • If you are pregnant or considering it, educate yourself on all the risks. Find a high-risk OBGYN doctor who has a solid knowledge about lupus.
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Explaining Lupus to Kids

Explaining Lupus to Kids

Explaining lupus to kids is important in keeping the fear at bay. Illness can scare kids and even tear a family apart — read Barbara's tips for coping.
by Barbara Leech on June 17, 2014
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